By Our Correspondent
BHUBANESWAR/ JODA/BARBIL/KOLKATA: The Winter Session of Odisha Assembly , which began from Wednesday , is expected to witness more rouse scenes with Opposition Parties are gearing up to raise the massive mining scam and subsequent fine imposed near about Rs 800 crore on Kolkata headquarters Mala Roy& Others Mines in State’s mineral rich Keonjhar district.
“We will raise the matter in the House and will demand to collect the fine amount imposed on Mala Roy & Others Mines as early as possible,” a BJP MLA said. Congress leaders also alleged that a nexus between Company officials and officials of Odisha Steel and Mines Department.
The studied silence of Naveen Patnaik led BJD Government in Odisha in collecting the fine amount imposed on Mala Roy and Others Mines over illegal mining activities has raised many eyebrows with Justice (Retired) Anil Dave and GS Singhvi justifying the previous CEC and Justice MB Shah Commission report against the Company
The Kolkata headquarters Mala Roy& Others Company including EMARS Mining and Steel had got lease for Jalahuri Iron Manganese mines under Joda mining circle of Odisha’s mineral rich Keonjhar district.The Company was accused of violating Rule 37 of the Mineral Concession Rules, 1960 (now amended) which bars the transfer of control of a lease without prior government approval.Section 6 of the Mines and Minerals (Regulation and Development) Act, 1957 requires any further grant, in excess of the 10-km limit, to be approved by the state but it also floated by the company.
In view of the illegal mining, violation of forest and environmental laws and mines and minerals acts , both the Justice MB Shah Commission and Central Empowered Committee of the Supreme Court imposed penalty on Mala Roy & Others but the company yet to pay the amount to Odisha Government.
With mining auction going on for about 40 mines in Odisha going on, those are expiring by March 31, 2020; the Company is desperately trying to got a block in Keonjhar district.
With Mala Roy is in poor health, her two sons Indrajit and Premajit Roy are looking after as Director of company’s diverse business spreading from West Bengal to Odisha.
The Justice MB Shah Panel in its report had found large scale irregularities in Mala Roy& Others Mines, the Panel had also recommended strong action against the Mining firm. “The Mala Roy& Others Mines have looted crores of rupees of mines and minerals from Odisha and earned huge profit through its Steel plants, export, imports and other trading methods,” added a Kolkata based Industry watcher.
In Bhubaneswar, several activists have demanded a CBI probe into Mala Roy& Others Mines operations in Odisha’s Keonjhar district.
Meanwhile, several wildlife and social activists have sought a court-monitored probe into the extension of lease and allotment of the mineral mines for free of cost alleging that it had caused huge financial loss to the public via a concocted conspiracy.
“Within the principle upheld by the Supreme Court in its previous judgement, no natural assets can be allotted/extended free of cost. Impugned extension is contra to the law of the country. No where in the Act, it says to extend the lease free of cost. At least value of extension must be decided as per the maximum rate of auction value by the state or by another state government during these period,” they said.
They argued said that loss caused to the exchequer is liable to be recovered from the mining firms and their leases are liable to be quashed and the mines be put to fresh auction.They also demand quashing of section 8A of the MMDR (Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act.Section 8-A of the Act provides that all mining lease should be granted for a period of fifty years and on expiry of lease period, it should be put up for auction as per the procedure specified in the Act.
“We suspect that a large amount of political donation has been given by the corporate miner for the impugned provisions (of MMDR Act) for extension of the mining lease as free of cost from escaping auction process which is also a subject matter for CBI investigation and calling list of mines from all states for further action,” they said.
According to official sources , all old lease of the minerals mining, except coal block, has been extended for further 5 to 20 years under the garb of the amendment of 2015 without charging any cost/ premium and fresh value to pay for mining while new mines has been put up for auction which were auctioned for 80 per cent to 110 per cent premium other then royalty .
The quantity of ore that is to be extracted every year specified in the mining plan which is approved by IBM. Forest and environment laws have been violated installing screening plants without statutory clearance. No action has been taken by any of department state and center excess mining of the specified limit violating operating conditions, assessing impact on the local environment, grabbing unauthorised forest land.
94 of the 192 iron ore mining leases in Odisha do not have the mandatory environmental clearances. And of the 96 that have them, 75 have mined far beyond their permitted levels over the past several years, says the Justice M.B. Shah Commission report.
The exhaustive five-volume report lays bare how the mines have continued to use a loophole in the law for years and flagrantly violate environmental and other norms to pump out iron at a time when international prices of the metal are booming.
The report says 56 mining leases operated close to identified wildlife areas without adequate protection to the animals. The mandatory forest clearances had not been obtained in several cases. Waterbodies in and around 55 mines have been polluted. Water has depleted in natural streams in some cases and forestland impacted adversely in several others. A mining-project within a 10-kilometre vicinity of a protected wildlife area requires mandatory clearance from the National Board of Wildlife, which too was not obtained in several cases.
It has recommended that the entire extraction in all cases, where leases are operated without mandatory environmental clearances, be treated as illegal and the market value — domestic or export — recovered from the defaulting miners.
With no political parties raising the issue of corruption and irregularities in Odisha during the campaigning for the last Lok Sabha polls and Assembly, apprehensions are being raised if culprits will ever be brought to book.Probes into Rs 3 lakh crore mining scam have slowed down in the last couple years, raising doubts about a tacit understanding among the leaders.
The CEC, in its interim report, had revealed that a large number of mines operated in Odisha after the expiry of mining lease period on the provision of deemed extension of mining lease as no decision was taken on application filed by the lease-holders for renewal of the leases.It found that at least 163 mining leases operated without the requisite approvals under the Forest Conservation Act, 1980; environmental clearances, Air and Water Act or approved mining plans.The CEC also found that out of the 596 mines, as many as 307 mines consisted of either wholly or partly forest areas.
The Odisha government, in its reply furnished to National Mines Tribunal (NMT) in 2013 had admitted the illegalities committing in mining activities and stated that it had slapped Rs 65,000 crore penalty on 196 mine owners who allegedly indulged in illegal and over-extraction of minerals, mainly iron ore. Challenging the state government’s decision to impose penalty, many mines owners have gone to the court. However, the state government’s lack of seriousness to pursue the case has resulted in a paltry recovery of the penalty.
This apart, company played a key role in Odisha mining scam and violated Mines and Minerals Act, Mines and Minerals Regulation Act of 1957’s section 21. The company involved in illegal mining, theft and transportation. The company has violated pollution control act of 1986, air pollution control act of 1981, water pollution control act of 1974 and forest rights act of 1980.
Companies were supposed to extract mining with clearance of air and water pollution control under various acts like Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 and consent to operate under the Water (PCP) Act, 1974 and Air (PCP) Act, 1981.
The firm has been violating forest and wildlife laws .The Company, which is also creating air and water pollution while defying orders of Odisha State Pollution Control Board and Union Forest and Environment Ministry. Action should have taken against the company under Forest Conservation Act, 1980 and Odisha Forest Act-1972 and Mines and Minerals Act. But instead , the company got extension to run its closed mines.
Company which operating without valid consent to operate should have been issued closure directions or will be prosecuted as per the provisions in Water (PCP) Act, 1974 and Air(PCP) Act, 1981.While granting “consent to operate”, it will be ensured that the proponent has obtained all other statutory clearances under Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 and Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.The Company has no respect to labour laws, they said.